MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Florida advocate of legalizing marijuana says a threat prompted him to withdraw his offer to pay supporters of Mississippi’s petition drive to gather signatures on petitions for a statewide election.
Jeremy Bufford of Medical Marijuana United in Tampa, Florida, offered in April to pay $1 to $2 for each certified signature.
Kelly Jacobs of DeSoto County, who initiated the Ballot Initiative 48 drive, told The Commercial Appeal that Bufford sent an email saying he was dropping out because of a threat.
Bufford did not respond to an email Sunday from The Associated Press; the newspaper said he did not return its phone call.
His last email to Jacobs and other Mississippi supporters said he decided to withdraw after consulting with law enforcement and attorneys, the newspaper reported. He did not describe the threat.
Bufford said he would refund all donations he has received in support of the Mississippi payment program.
“This is your fight now,” the email concluded.
Mississippi’s Ballot Initiative 48 would legalize marijuana for adults and impose a 7 percent sales tax. It also would legalize growing industrial hemp.
Jacobs said she didn’t have any more information about the alleged threat.
Bufford had offered to pay signature collectors $1 — for each signature verified by local clerks, and $2 in areas where signatures had been particularly difficult to gather.
Law doesn’t allow people to be paid to sign a petition, but those collecting signatures may be compensated.
Jacobs said about 8,000 certified signatures have been collected so far. More than 107,200 would be needed to get the measure on the ballot.
Asked if she thought the Mississippi effort would succeed, Jacobs was optimistic long-term.
“We’re headed in that direction,” she said. “I don’t know how fast.”